Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Tommy Irvin said he is pleased to hear that the U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has designated 158 Georgia counties as disaster areas due to agricultural damage from the effects of drought.
Governor Perdue submitted the request for the Secretarial Disaster Designation earlier this year and made the announcement recently.
“This is something we have been anticipating,” Irvin said. “Although a Secretarial Disaster Designation only enables farmers in qualifying counties to apply for emergency loan assistance from the Farm Service Agency, this action will help at least some of our farmers cope with the losses they have incurred due to the ongoing drought.”
USDA declared 149 of Georgia’s 159 counties as primary natural disaster areas and nine more as contiguous disaster areas. The nine counties declared as contiguous disaster areas are Baldwin, Chattahoochee, Dooly, Harris, Jones, Marion, Putnam, Talbot and Washington. The only county that did not qualify for the primary or contiguous designation is Muscogee.
The rest of the counties were approved as primary disaster areas. The 10 counties not included in the primary designation will continue to be evaluated as more assessment reports and determinations of losses are completed by USDA.
To receive a disaster designation, a county must have incurred a loss of 30 percent or more in dollar value for all crops, or of a single crop or group of crops, such as all feed crops or all fruit crops. Once a county receives a disaster designation by the Secretary of Agriculture, all farmers in the county become eligible to apply to the USDA Farm Service Agency for low-interest emergency loans.
Although all farmers are eligible to apply, they do not automatically qualify for the loans. Each farmer must meet individual eligibility requirements.
The Farm Service Agency considers each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability. Local FSA offices can provide affected farmers in the designated counties with further information and assist them in completing loan applications.